This week I take you on a tour of a cemetery in Baltimore, MD in search of a particular statue known as Black Aggie. It is a statue with a bit of history to it, and a legend that makes it Nightmare Fuel.
Our story begins with the death of a woman named Marian Adams. She was married to Henry Adams, the grandson of President John Quincy Adams, until her death by suicide in 1885. Distraught by the loss of his love, he traveled to Japan in June 1886 in search of comfort. Upon his return home, he sought out famed American sculptor, Augustus St. Gaudens, and commissioned a statue from him to replace his late wife’s headstone. It took four years, and when finally finished was regarded as “the most powerful and expressive pieces in the history of American art.” While the piece itself was never officially named, it is commonly referred to as the Adams Memorial, although its nickname is Grief.
Strangeness surrounded the original statue. Henry Adams never spoke publicly about it or his wife’s death, even refusing to acknowledge the artwork’s nickname. His family heritage intensified the public’s curiosity, but it took hiding the statue behind walls of trees and shrubbery to capture the people’s fascination. It became a popular site to find, even though the piece was described as unnerving to see. Perhaps it was the public’s enthusiasm for it that inspired another artist, Eduard L. A. Pausch, to produce a copy, later dubbed Black Aggie.
The statue was a near identical copy of Grief, although differing in some details. Instead of being made of pink granite, Aggie was grey. It was also missing the bench and the original stonework of the original. Also, inscribed at the base of the statue was the name Agnus, the family name of the replica’s owner at the time, General Felix Agnus.
General Agnus was a war hero during the Civil War, who retired from the military to take over his father-in-law’s position as publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper until his death in 1925. The legend of Black Aggie began with the General’s body being buried at the statue’s feet.
A statue by day, stories began to spread of the stone woman moving on its own and dead spirits gathering around her on some nights. If your eyes met hers, you risked blindness. Pregnant women who passed through Aggie’s shadow faced possible miscarriages. While it’s easy to attribute these stories to fear and superstition, it’s the ones that followed that frightened people even more.
A local college fraternity took to including Black Aggie in their initiation rites, with the pledges being made to spend the night on the statue’s lap. One anecdotal case mentions that the stone woman came to life and squeezed the life out of the young man. Another instance reported by a night watchman was of a boy found frightened to death at Aggie’s feet. Other reports are of red glowing eyes at night and people dying after disrespecting the statue.
Due to the popularity of the statue and the damage caused by the people coming to see it, the decision was made to donate it. After several years where its whereabouts were unknown, the statue is now on display in the rear courtyard of the Dolly Madison house in Washington, D.C. After its removal areas of grass that refused to grow while it lay in Black Aggie’s shadow have begun filling in once again.
Is there something to this tale, or is it just an urban legend? Who can say? Perhaps these stories are as anecdotal as they sound, but what if there may be some factual evidence to back it up? Regardless, I hope this provides some fuel for your nightmares.
Until next time, Addicts.